GIVA, a traditional footwear in Persia, mainly consisting of an upper part made of twined white cotton thread sewn up on the edges of a cloth and leather or rubber sole (PLATE I).

Nothing can be found about the precedents of the giva-making craft (giva-duzi/-bāfi) in Persia in available sources. The earliest known mention of the word giva is probably that in the Širāz-nāma (comp. ca. 734/1333) of Abu’l-ʿAbbās Zarkub Širāzi, where (pp. 127, 155) he mentions the “bāzār-e giva-duzān” (giva-makers’ market) as well-known in Shiraz. Another early reference to giva is found in the Resāla-ye delgošā by the satirical author ʿObayd Zākāni (d. ca. 772/1370), where he mentions (p. 62) the anecdote of a dervish performing his ritual prayer (namāz) with his givas on lest these be stolen. The word is recorded in much later Persian dictionaries such as Moḥammad-Qāsem Soruri’s Majmaʿ al-fors (comp. 1008/1599-1600; III, p. 1233: “a kind of cloth shoe”) and ʿAbd-al-Rašid Tattavi’s Farhang-e rašidi (comp. 1064/ 1653-54; II, p. 1267: “a kind of woolen footwear”).

Producing a pair of givas, done only by hand, is a complicated, time-consuming job. For instance, making a single average-sized upper takes nearly two days (Wulff, Crafts, pp. 228-29). At least three persons are involved in the commercial production of a pair of givas. Knitting the uppers (ruya; vernacular variants: rua, ruvār, etc.) in a kind of “blanket stitch” is a woman’s work, done at home with strong twined cotton thread, using a special needle about 11.5 cm long (PLATE II). Sometimes a triangular tip cap (piš-panja), knitted separately, is sewn onto the ruya’s tip (panja) to reinforce it (PLATE III, PLATE IV). Traditional soles (taḵt, zira, šiva), made by specialized craftsmen in sole-making (taḵt-/šiva-kaši) workshops, consist of strong white or black linen or cotton rags cut into strips usually 13 to 15 cm long and 4 cm wide, which are then folded to a width of 1 cm. The folded strips are first soaked in a solution of gum tragacanth (katirā), and beaten fl;at with a mošta (mallet without handle). About ninety such folded strips are needed for a single sole. Then the sole-maker pierces up to six holes longitudinally in the bundle of compressed strips with a special hot awl. Next, from cowhide tanned in lime he cuts a long narrow strip which he passes through the holes to keep the cloth strips tightly pressed together. The bundle is then trimmed edgewise with a sharp knife to fit different foot soles. The tip (puza, damāḡa) and the counter (pāšna, naʿleki, etc.) are further reinforced with two pieces of strong hide. Leather soles are sometimes made, and since nearly five decades ago rubber soles, cut out of fl;at pieces of discarded tires, are used for producing much cheaper givas. The soles of a pair, being identical, can suit either the right or left foot.

The job of the third worker involved in the craft, the actual giva-maker (givaduz/kaš), is to assemble the uppers and soles which he buys from the preceding workers. In his specialized workshop, he sews the upper onto the edge of the sole with thread and a strip of bleached cowhide, molds the pairs, and presents them for sale.

Materials for traditional giva-duzi are almost the same in Persia. However, local differences in the quality of components or in the shape and ornamentation of givas do exist. For example, the maleki (lit., “royal, worthy of kings;” an appellation probably dating from the Qajar period), a better kind of giva, has a pointed upturned panja, strengthened, like the pāšna, with triangular leather toecaps and counters. The givas made in Kermānšāh (locally called kalāš), one of the best varieties in the country, have soles of thick cowhide (or rubber) and uppers with broad tips. The best Ābāda givas have uppers embellished with geometrical patterns created by “small holes left in the course of stitching” (Wulff, Crafts, p. 229; for a detailed description of the technique and terminology of giva-making see ibid., pp. 228-30).

Givas were a relatively inexpensive comfortable footwear used mainly by tribal people, villagers, or poor city people (cf. the Eṣfahāni expression giva-pā “wearing givas” referring to such people; Jamālzāda, s.v.), especially in dry areas or in hot and dry months. The main giva-making centers were Ābāda, Kermānšāh, Sanandaj, Kāšān, Se-Deh (now called Ḵomeyni-šahr) and Šahreżā (near Isfahan), Borujerd, Qom, Yazd, and some towns in Khorasan, with Ābāda and Kermānšāh givas being considered the best.

The use of givas has been steadily declining in the last half-century, especially in cities, due to several factors. In 1328 Š./1949 the government forbade the wearing of givas by government employees, who were required to wear European-style leather shoes. Starting in 1336 Š./1957, mass-production of leather or leatherette footwear, differently made for men and women, and sold at reasonably low prices accessible to the masses, dealt a severe blow to the humble giva-making local industries, which, based on a primitive technique, could not compete with the influx of a great variety of mass-produced footwear for different seasons and sexes (givas were unisex). In 1336 Š./1957 a pair of machine-made shoes sold for about 200 rials, and a pair of good givas for about 600 rials. Therefore, giva-makers gradually abandoned their craft, and turned to other jobs. Nowadays there remain about five giva-making workshops in the centers of the craft. At present (1995), a pair of Ābāda givas costs about 80,000 rials, that is, about four or five times as much as a pair of mass-produced shoes of inferior quality. This writer believes that this manual craft will be totally abandoned in the next three decades. For the time being, givas with thick or thin soles continue to be made; those with thick rubber soles are mostly worn by shepherds, and the other kind mostly by city-dwellers fond of walking as an exercise.



ʿAbd-al-Rašid Tattavi, Farhang-e rašidi, [with] Moʿarrabāt-e rašidi, ed. M. ʿAbbāsi, 2 vols., Tehran, 1337 Š./1958.

Moḥammad-ʿAli Jamālzāda, Farhang-e loḡāt-e ʿāmmiāna, ed. Moḥammad-Ja ʿfar Maḥjub, Tehran, 1341 Š./1962.

Komisiun-e melli-e Unesko (UNESCO) dar Irān, Irānšahr, 2 vols., Tehran, 1343 Š./1964, II, p. 1813.

Neẓām-al-Din ʿObayd Zākāni, Majmuʿa-ye laṭāʾef-e … ʿObayd Zākāni, n.p., n.d.

Jamšid Ṣadāqat-kiš, “Tāriḵča-ye ṣanʿat-e giva-duzi dar Irān,” Čistā 4/5, 1365 Š./1987, pp. 335-46.

Moḥammad-Qāsem Soruri Kāšāni, Majmaʿ al-fors, ed. Moḥammad Dabirsiāqi, 3 vols., Tehran, 1338-41 Š./1959-62.

D. Ṭahuri, “Ṣanāyeʿ-e dasti-e Pāva,” Tamāšā, no. 251, 2 Esfand 1354/21 February 1976, pp. 44-45.

Wezārat-e eqteṣād, Gozāreš-e moqaddamāti dar bāra-ye ṣanāyeʿ-e dasti-e ostān-e Fārs, Tehran, 1364 Š./1985.

Abu’l- ʿAbbās Aḥmad b. Abi’l-Ḵayr Zarkub Širāzi, Širāz-nāma, ed. Bahman Karimi, Tehran, 1310 Š./1931.

(Jamshid Sadaqat-Kish)

Originally Published: December 15, 2001

Last Updated: February 9, 2012

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